Presumptions and Malaysia, a Jedi nation?
Writer: Lord Bobo
Published: Fri, 03 Jun 2011
Dear Lord Bobo, what is a presumption of innocence? Is it truly applicable in Malaysia? @christan_yh, via Twitter
THE presumption of innocence is a fundamental legal principle of criminal trials. This simply means that you are presumed innocent until you have been convicted in a court of law.
So from the moment you are arrested by the police, right through your trial and until the court hands down a verdict of “guilty”, the law assumes you are innocent of the charge against you.
There are important repercussions to this. For one, the police are not supposed to treat you like a criminal, i.e. someone who has already been found guilty of a crime in court. They should not handcuff you when you are brought to or are in court. Bail should be readily given and a lenient conditions set (unless the offence is so serious i.e. murder, terrorism).
Even if you held in a lockup, you should be given access to facilities, as much and as reasonably as possible, as any normal citizen. To do otherwise would be to punish you before you have been found guilty. To do those things is to infringe against this presumption.
While the principle exists in Malaysia as it does in any civilized system of law, it suffers the same fate as many fine legal principles and government policies – a lack of application, borne out of a lack of appreciation of the principle itself.
A glaring example of this is when you see people accused of a crime being treated shabbily by the police – handcuffed, dressed in crappy clothing, held firmly by a big cop or surrounded by a few police personnel, treated roughly and then held in lockup.
Why should you be treated this way until and unless you have been convicted of a crime?
The presumption principle very strongly applies in Malaysia – the presumption of guilt. You are treated as a criminal simply because you were caught by the police. Such attitudes often lead to abuse of suspects and witnesses.
It makes the job of a police investigator a hell of a lot easier to presume guilt; if a suspect is innocent, they’d have to start from square one and find someone else to bang up for the crime.
Like all legal principles, there are exceptions, and the Malaysian-style presumption of guilt is the same. If you’re a VIP or well-connected individual, then you are exempted from the presumption of guilt.
If you’re unfortunate enough that news of the allegations against you have become known to the public (damn those nosy independent media folk!), you unfortunately will have to be charged, and the charges made public. But don’t worry, as there is an endless stream of scandal and hoopla in Bolehland, your matter will soon fall off the radar, and the charges be wrapped up in old nasi lemak wax paper and not be heard of again.
Let’s not be too hard on the Malaysian authorities. They are at the forefront of investigative procedure, and are responsible for cutting-edge innovations. It’s not their fault that their experiments sometimes go awry. The most recent innovation is the presumption of flight. Out of windows. They’re still working on that one.
Can I legally change my religion to Jedi? @junw3n, via Twitter
GREETINGS Young Padawan,
May the force be with you and thank you for your timely and important question. His Supreme Eminenceness is aware that the Jedi religion is growing in popularity worldwide, asserting itself through organisations such as the The Temple of the Jedi Order and Temple of the Jedi Force.
In 2001, it was officially recognized as a religion in the United Kingdom. Ten years later, based on your question, it seems to now be making its way to Malaysian shores, buzzing into people’s skulls and spirits like the sound of a good ol’ lightsaber.
You obviously feel a strong need to drop your old boring beliefs and crank it up with one that is snazzier, ambiguous and way cheaper than Scientology. That’s totally understandable. Wandering around town in a full hooded robe with a lightsaber is way cool. You could hire a midget and dress him up as a boxy droid and call him 12FU to accompany you.
The Federal Constitution does not limit the types of religions to tether your faith to, unless it is some deviant Muslim sect as classified by the government. Article 11(1) clearly states that you have the right to profess and practise your religion.
If you are a Muslim, though, propagating Islam is subject to state law and federal law. That means the government can only regulate the religion of Islam, but not other religions. They are free to propagate their faith, unshackled and untouched by the sticky tentacles of some Jabatan or other crack taskforce.
Luckily for you (and would-be Jedis across the nation), there are no laws that limit what “other religions” are under the Federal Constitution. There are also no court decisions that have interpreted the phrase to pronounce its scope.
This suggests that you can leave your former religion and embrace the spirit of Jediism and the ways of Yoda. And if you do manage to start up the Temple of the Jedi in the Klang Valley somewhere, give us a call – we’d love to learn the Jedi mind trick.
Oh, hang on, you’re not a Muslim are you?
We assumed from your Twitter profile picture that you’re not. If you are, then sorry, your road to Jedi-dom may be headed towards a dead end. You’re likely to be labelled things like “traitor to your race/religion”.
You may even be accused by a certain prominent someone (he doesn’t seem qualified to be called a “politician” – which says a lot) of starting some sort of crusade, or wanting to change Malaysia into a Jedi nation, and you don’t wanna be messin’ with that dude. The Force against the Farce, that would be compelling.